Through my experiences, I have learned lessons that have shaped my career and helped define my leadership approach.
Don’t let your degree or your work history define you. I am not defined by what I have already learned. Rather, I am defined by my capacity to learn new things and apply my skills to new situations.
I graduated with a degree in English and a math minor, taught junior high school for a few years, and then earned a law degree. After years of practicing in firms, I joined Northwestern Mutual’s law department. Several years later, I was given the opportunity to do a rotation in the audit department. I was hesitant at first, worried that I didn’t have the necessary background. I needed to remind myself that my skills were transferrable, and that I loved learning. I almost held myself back, but I gave it a try.
After that rotation, I was asked to lead the department. I then moved into my current role. If I had allowed my hesitations to take control of my decisions, I never would have stretched myself beyond what I thought was possible at the time.
Don’t be your own obstacle to success. Women sometimes opt out of career opportunities because we worry about finding the right balance between work and home. While balance can be an issue, I think sometimes we make decisions without exploring all the creative solutions and assume that others won’t consider our ideas. I have done that and regretted it. That is why I now make a conscious effort to help solve these work/life challenges—for myself and the women I lead.
Advocate for other women. I think it is important for women to advocate for each other. Establishing mentoring relationships and joining empowerment groups are great ways to support one another. We have to actively help women succeed. I am fortunate to have mentors, both male and female, who took a personal interest in me. They helped me succeed and are also the reason why I find it so important to share what I have learned.
Is there a role model who has had a pro- found impact on your career and/or life? What did he/she motivate you to do?
My role model taught me the power of mentoring—of investing time and energy in someone else. This person spent time with me outside our normal work hours, sharing with me honest feedback and disclosing details about her own development journey. She helped me understand that everyone has things to improve, and as leaders we owe it to others to help them grow. Her investment in me motivated me to succeed. I am committed to providing this same opportunity for others.